Every painting, pencil sketch, and sculpture is a representation of something else. Even the most abstract painting composed of crazy shapes is still bound by the definitions of colors and the reality of lines, angles, and weight. Art always represents some aspect of the tangible world. And the meaning of that art work is derived through the artists from the object. The subject of the painting has a great bearing on the final result.
In much the same way, the subject of our kids’ ministry will determine what our kids’ ministry will look like. If we begin with kids, our ministry will be kid focused. We will have amazing games, crazy worship times, and adventurous summer camps. We will do anything and everything to get more kids into our church. You can almost hear the chant now, “Kids, kids, kids!”
And while I desperately want families to be returned to their place of biblical prominence within the church, I think focusing on kids will actually harm the church. If we focus on kids, we most likely will win many of them to our church. But will we win many of them to our Lord Jesus Christ?
In 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul says that, “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing,” Later on, Paul says that unregenerate people see the gospel as a ‘stumbling block’ and ‘foolishness'(v.23). Unredeemed kids are not going to like church. They are going to find it boring. They are going to think that the gospel is an imposition to their T.V. schedule, to their social media life, and to their sports’ career. I have had kids tell me that, “I don’t like church” and complain that church is “lame.” And I do not think these little guys and gals are the worst sinners ever. I too preferred football and toy soldiers over Sunday school and congregational hymns.
To create a ministry that is focused on these kids, we have to reflecting their attitudes in our ministry. We have to agree that the gospel is boring and begin implementing games and music that lessen the pressures of the gospel conviction. We have to make the ministry about acceptance. We must offer grace without repentance and entertainment without conviction. If we want our kids’ ministry to represent our kids, we will have to embrace a sinners worldview.
And if we do, we will win over our kids. We will discover that kids prefer a worship service featuring pool noodles over the one where they have sit in the pews with their parents. But we have not won these kids to Jesus. If anything, we have connected with them by saying that, “Jesus is not everything; your self-centered happiness is.”
Instead of focusing on kids, I think kids’ ministries should be focus on Christ. We need to seek to replicate the gospel in our ministries. We do this by simply proclaiming the gospel. We declare with Paul that we want our kids to only know, “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” We teach children the gospel.
Now, I am not saying that best kids’ ministry is a boring kids’ ministry. Nor do I think we should have our children’s choir members wear robes. (Yes some churches still do that.) We can use newer songs, employ great illustrations, and lead fun crafts. Anything and everything that makes the gospel clearer should be employed. We should become all things to all people, especially our kids. But our ultimate goal is not to make our kids like church. Our ultimate goal is present the gospel, “in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (I Cor. 4b-5).
At the end of the day, we cannot save anyone. I do not care how creative or gifted you or your team is, none of us can open a child’s eyes. Only God can grant repentance that “lead to life” (Acts 11:18). And if we want God to work if we want to see children redeemed while in our kids’ ministries, we must avoid the temptation to employ worldly strategies that appeals to our kids’ sinful desires. We must preach the gospel, trusting God to penetrate the hearts of our kids with the light of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:6).
As with the great painters, our kids’ ministry must have a subject. What is the subject of your kids’ ministry?